4 Myths About Video Games, Busted
When a medium is as big as video games, and as misunderstood by so many people, we’re bound to get some funny ideas in our collective heads about it. That’s why it’s important to look at research data and scientifically-backed studies to find out just what’s going on in the world of video games: who plays them and what they’re doing to us. Here are four video game myths that just won’t die — and the truth about them.
1. Games make you violent — busted
There’s no beating around the bush here: Nearly all of the top-selling video games, from Grand Theft Auto to Call of Duty, are chock-full of violence. Missions revolve around killing people, zombies, and aliens with every kind of weapon imaginable, from guns to scissors. You might even be tasked with torturing someone. Surely inflicting such awful violence in video games must make people more violent in real life, right?
Wrong. According to The Washington Post:
It’s true that Americans spend billions of dollars on video games every year and that the United States has the highest firearm murder rate in the developed world. But other countries where video games are popular have much lower firearm-related murder rates. In fact, countries where video game consumption is highest tend to be some of the safest countries in the world, likely a product of the fact that developed or rich countries, where consumers can afford expensive games, have on average much less violent crime.
So go ahead. Pull that digital trigger. There’s no apparent connection between playing violent video games and committing violent acts.
2. The average gamer is a teenage boy — busted
The stereotype goes that gamers are just a bunch of teenage boys. That simply isn’t the case, according to the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), whose latest annual report shows that the average gamer today is 35 years old. Regarding the gender division, it’s much more even than you might assume: Instead of gamers being overwhelmingly male, only 56% of gamers are male, while 44% are female. Further, women age 18 or older are much more likely to be gamers (33%) than boys age 18 or younger (15%). So no, teenage boys are far from the largest group of gamers.
3. Games are for nerds — busted
This one depends on your definition of the word “nerd,” but unless you think half of the population of the U.S. is a bunch of nerds, you’re wrong. According to the ESA study mentioned above, nearly half of the people in the country (155 million out of 319 million) play games. On average, each household is home to two gamers, and four out of five U.S. households own a device that’s used to play video games.
In other words, nerds and non-nerds alike play video games. It’s a universal hobby if ever there was one.
4. Games make you dumb — busted
You might think sitting on a couch, staring at a TV, and thumbing buttons on a controller would be bad for your brain. You’d be wrong, say numerous studies on the matter. In one study, which had a group of adults play Super Mario 64 every day for two months, researchers found that playing games makes a measurable positive difference in the brain. Compared to a game-abstaining control group, MRI scans of the gamers in the study showed a noticeable boost in the parts of their brains responsible for spacial navigation and fine motor skills. Who says video games will rot your brain?
So next time you hear someone talk about how gamers are nerds, or games are bad for you, tell them science has proved them wrong time and time again. Now where’d I put that controller?